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  • Sara

How to Organize a Great Charity Ball or Awards' night

A photo from the gala dinner of our charity event #AmeetsA

This is for me a Million Dollar Question.

I have been living in the UK now for almost 7 years: initially when I was invited to attend an awards' night or charity ball, I used to get very excited. After all they are a good excuse to go shopping for a nice party frock, have your nails done, make-up and hair, and in Italy happenings like this are not very common.

After attending a few of these posh evenings though, they all became very quickly very boring. The format tends to always be the same, with very little variations. The venue is often a hotel and the food is normally mediocre at best.

In 2014 and 2015 I organized in Glasgow the charity event "Architecture Meets Art" for which we needed a gala dinner with auction to raise the pennies. So I started thinking: how can I make this evening fun for everyone involved and a bit different? How can I make sure my guests won't get bored and will book another table or ticket the following year?

In all honesty, so far I haven't been able to come up with the #groundbreaking plan or idea. The most difficult thing in my opinion is that there are certain elements that you can't do without and that really restrict what you can or can't do in the course of the evening. It's quite obvious in fact that if you organize an awards' night, you will have to give out the awards at some point - which is normally very boring and take up a lot of time. Or if you are organizing a charity ball, you will quite possibly have an auction to run to maximize the money raised for your charity .

So what can I tell you to help you with the next ball you are organizing?

Here are a few ideas:

Theme: why do organizers 98% of the times go for an evening in a hotel, with a sit-down meal, an MC, some live music and silly games ? Because it's easy and cheaper. I was asked once to come up with a concept for a charity ball to raise money for the renovation of an historic paddle steamer boat. Unfortunately I didn't get the job - mind you the event's budget was quite considerable - but would have loved to organize this: my idea was to hire the Waverley paddle steamer (which doesn't come cheap) and invite guests to attend a very classy 1930s evening with a swing band, a lot of champagne and canapés, a blackjack and a roulette tables and other bits and bobs. All of this while going up and down the Clyde and enjoying the beautiful Scottish scenery. Wouldn't that be nice and memorable? Choose a theme for your night that is significant to your cause/event. Try to make it memorable.

MC: please please please do keep in mind who your audience is before hiring an MC/presenter for your night. I attended this event in Glasgow a couple of years ago. It was the annual dinner of a professional association for an industry we are involved with. The attendees were all professionals and it was very much a business event. The MC was a very popular local comedian who I'm sure he is absolutely brilliant when you are out with friends in a pub, but he was completely out-of-place at that specific event. His very typical Glasgow humor was not well received by the audience and created various awkward moments. A good MC can make or break your evening, so please be careful.

Clann An Drumma
Clann An Drumma at #AmeetsA 2015

Entertainment: go for something very energetic and unusual. In 2015 for my #AmeetsA gala dinner I hired these guys: They were brilliant! They are not cheap as there are 5 or 6 of them, but they are full of energy and the music they play got everyone on their feet. One of my customers commented that the energy of the room was going down towards the end of the event because of the auction that was a bit too long; but when the #ClannAnDrumma boys came in, they were like a breath of fresh air. A great way to end the night and send everyone home buzzing.

If you have any more ideas, please do leave your comment at the bottom of the page.

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